A new report from the Center of Aviation (CAPA) has revealed that Norwegian Air Shuttle is the leading airline from London’s Gatwick Airport to destinations in North America. This report comes as a blow to flag carrier British Airways, who has long had a bitter rivalry with the low-cost carrier.
What are the details?
On the 2nd July, Norwegian celebrated five years since its debut route from Gatwick to LAX. In that time, they have transported over five million passengers on the route and have overtaken British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air Transat and beaten fellow budget airline WestJet as the leading airline to North America from Gatwick. Norwegian also survived the harsh winter that resulted in multiple bankruptcies, notably Primera Air.
As listed in the CAPA report, back in July of 2013, there were only 11 routes to North America via Gatwick airport with none of them operated by low-cost carriers. In July of this year, there are now 22 routes to North America, with 17 of them operated by low-cost carriers (11 for Norwegian Air Shuttle and six for WestJet).
Rightly put by CAPA, this is an increase of almost triple the capacity to North America from London. Other airlines operating to North America have either maintained capacity, or reduced services (such as Virgin Atlantic scrapping Gatwick to Las Vegas flights).
Other flag-carrier traffic remains strong at London’s other airports, such as Heathrow.
How has Norwegian done this?
Norwegian has been very successful with its unique long-haul low-cost model. Essentially, onboard Norwegian, everything is for sale. From pillows to headphones, luggage to meals, passengers must pay piece by piece for everything that they want (or need) onboard. Naturally, this model is replicated by other European carriers Ryanair and easyJet, but unlike them, Norwegian is operating these services long-haul.
The difference is, on a one or two hour Ryanair flight (for example to go get pizza in Malian one evening) you don’t need to buy a meal or a pillow. On an eight-hour flight across the transatlantic, it would be almost impossible to not eat or drink anything.
Thus Norwegian is able to simultaneously cater to those looking for a full-service carrier alternative, where they only pay for the things they need, as well as those looking to save on every penny who will strive to buy very few extras.
What about their long-haul fleet?
Norwegian is using the perfect aircraft for their long haul operations. With a fleet of Boeing 787s, they are able to save on fuel and other fixed costs that their rivals (using expensive A380s and Boeing 777s) cannot possibly match.
By using these aircraft to open new routes and improve capacity where needed, it is very likely that the airline will go strength to strength.
However, it is not all rose-tinted and sunshine, with Norwegian struggling to cover costs caused by their Boeing 737 MAX fleet being grounded and their own rapid investment and expansion last year. Only time will tell if they will be able to capitalize on their Gatwick success.
What do you think? Have you flown Norwegian from Gatwick? Let us know in the comments